A military officer who shot at a taxi driver on Sunday after he refused to pay bribes while transporting illegal timber in Preah Vihear province’s Choam Ksan district has gone into hiding, authorities said yesterday.
On Sunday evening, Third Lieutenant Phoum Kim, 37, from a military regiment based in Romdoh Sre commune, shot at taxi driver Chhoeung Chetr, 24, who was inside his vehicle.
The shots broke through the vehicle’s windows and struck Mr Chetr, who remains in hospital recovering from three gunshot wounds.
Police said after the shooting that the military officer was angry at the victim for not paying $500 to him in exchange for not seizing the timber and the vehicle.
Choam Ksan district police chief Or Seng said that the investigation was ongoing and that his officers were cooperating with military police.
“We are working with the military police who are taking action on their member,” he said. “According to the information I received, the suspect remains at large and escaped from his base and our forces are looking for him.”
“It’s hard for us to make a conclusion of his whereabouts right now,” he said.
Pich Sothy, commander of district military police, said that the evidence was clear in the case and that the search for the suspect continued.
“For the clue leading to his arrest, it is our secret tactics and when we arrest him, we will let you know,” he said. “The victim was sent from Preah Vihear referral hospital to the provincial referral hospital in Kampot province, which is his hometown. He filed a complaint with us here and we are investigating.”
Lor Chan, Preah Vihear provincial coordinator for human rights group Adhoc, said that even though the taxi driver was committing a forest crime, he should not have been shot at.
“It is a serious violation of human rights because even though he transported the timber illegally, he should only have been arrested, not shot at,” he said. “We should not use weapons to solve the problem.”